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Earth Day update: 6 recent changes to federal environmental programs

04/22/2013 12:23 EDT | Updated 06/22/2013 05:12 EDT
The federal government is marking Earth Day today by opening a long-awaited public information portal that will give access to environmental data from the oilsands.

Here's a quick look at that portal and other enviromental changes the federal government has undertaken in the past year or so.

Oilsands information portal

The oilsands monitoring system was started more than a year ago, touted at the time as a crucial tool in Canada's efforts to persuade Canadians and the world that the oilsands were not the major source of pollution and global warming that critics were claiming.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and his Alberta counterpart Diana McQueen will be at Carleton University in Ottawa on Monday to flick the switch and allow public scrutiny of new research measuring the quality and quantity of the land, air and water in the Athabasca region.

- Read more about the oilsands monitoring program.

Climate research funds

Earlier this month, the federal government announced another $10 million for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in support of international efforts to reduce short-lived climate pollutants — soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbons — from things like cooking stoves and vehicle emissions in the developing world.

The coalition backs plans to reduce pollutants from municipal solid waste, heavy-duty vehicles and engines, oil and natural gas production, and brick production.

- Read more about the new funding to reduce short-lived pollutants

Canadian High Arctic Research Centre

The federal government has touted its planned Arctic research centre as a way to boost both science and sovereignty, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcing last August a funding injection of $200 million for the project.

In February, Bernard Valcourt, the minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, announced that the station will be built on the plateau area in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Construction of the centre is expected to begin in 2014.

- Read more about the Arctic research centre

Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory

Harper's funding announcement for the new Arctic research centre last August came soon after another research facility had to close its doors because of a lack of financial support. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut, was Canada's northernmost research laboratory.

The station, on Ellesmere Island, had been tracking ozone depletion, air quality and climate change in the High Arctic since 2005.

- Read more about PEARL

Experimental Lakes Area

The federal government has said it will maintain control of a unique outdoor laboratory in northwestern Ontario, but it is no longer paying for research at the Experimental Lakes Area. An official has said the facility could be mothballed, or could be in “cold lay-up” and be ready to undertake research again in the future.

The ELA is an area of 58 small lakes where the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had been conducting experiments on whole bodies of water since 1968. It cost about $2 million annually to run the projects.

- Read more about the status of the Experimental Lakes Area

Environmental review overhaul

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced plans about a year ago to reduce the number of departments and agencies that can do environmental reviews as part of a plan to encourage economic growth through resource development. The project, which also includes fixed deadlines for the reviews, aimed to speed up what Oliver called a "duplicative, cumbersome and uncertain" process.

Earlier this month, a study suggested there's no evidence that Canada's environmental review process for projects such as oil and gas pipelines had any problems that would justify the new fixed timelines.

- Read more about the environmental review overhaul

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